Of all the things we've come to expect as Bengals fans, favorable national media recognition isn't one of them. The franchise was ripped because Carson Palmer demanded a trade; even though Bengals fans acknowledged Palmer's slow degradation as a quarterback unable to produce winners (though Bengals fans do demand the trade to happen at some point, provided something comes in return).
So needless to say that when Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback listed the Cincinnati Bengals as one of his best-15 teams (actually 15th) I was taken aback.
At some point we have to stop calling this a fluke. Cincinnati's D has held foes under 300 yards in four of five games.
That was the extent of Peter King's acknowledgement of the 3-2 Bengals, but it was enough for someone like me who appreciates the under-the-radar approach that this year's squad has categorized. Give the Buffalo Bills the credit for an outstanding start to the season; the Bengals beat them. Throw around every possible phrase that the loss basically suggests that Jack Del Rio's time as head coach is virtually accelerating towards an end; we'll promote Cincinnati's 30-20 win ourselves. That's fine with us, we'll take it.
But if the Bengals keep this up, the under-the-radar approach won't last much longer. If Cincinnati pulls out a win against the 0-5 Indianapolis Colts (I'm actually nervous about this game but I've been nervous about every game since the late 80s), they'll head into the bye week with a 4-2 record. However the final 10 games this season will be tough; four games remain against the Ravens and Steelers, a west coast trip to Seattle (the Bengals never do well on the west coast) and a home game against the Houston Texans, who should have Andre Johnson back by then.
More this year than ever, it's got to be a one-game approach for fans' expectations this year. I know that some of you are a widening window of expectations for a potential playoff run. Many projected a six-win season and there's a good chance that Cincinnati could reach .500 by the end of the year. A playoff run still seems out of reach, but we had similar uncertainty to ourselves during the 2009 season, which employed a top-five defense, a strong running game and a passing game designed not to lose games (even though it was largely ineffective in the second half of the season that year). So who's to say that they don't, but approaching the next game as your status quo NFL unknowns keeps things in perspective -- and sane.
+ Paul Daugherty of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes that the Bengals are buying into Marvin Lewis:
Beating Jacksonville wasn’t a huge achievement. It was a big game for chopping wood and shoveling coal. Here’s the thing: When you are able to remove the cynical element from your locker room, and replace it with kids too young to be worldly wise, you have a far better chance to reach them with what you believe.
As Andrew Whitworth said, “Young teams are scary when they get a little confidence.’’
+ ESPN 1530's Mo Egger writes that bad teams would have lost games like the Bengals won on Sunday, writing that perhaps this team is better than we expected. Lindsay Patterson loves this team because they personify a team-like personality.
+ Yahoo! Sports' Jason Cole wasn't impressed with Cincinnati's 30-20 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, writing that it was "three hours of your life you will never get back."
Surprisingly, the game was relatively exciting, but that Benny Hill, comedy-of-errors play at the end was proof that this contest belonged as the first in a long list of undercard games. Yeah, yeah, the Bengals are 3-2 and have something promising with Andy Dalton and A.J. Green, but that doesn’t make them good yet.
+ CBSSports.com's Clark Judge writes in favor of Andy Dalton, with all of the love in the NFL for rookie quarterback Cam Newton:
Yes, Cam Newton is everything Carolina hoped and then some. But where's the love for rookie Andy Dalton? So he doesn't throw for a gazillion yards. He's 3-2. He has one less touchdown pass than Newton, one less interception and a better completion percentage. But here's the only number that matters: He has two more victories.
+ Sports Illustrated's Don Banks was a little more gentle to the young 3-2 Cincinnati Bengals, writing in his Sunday evening Judgments:
Give it up for the Bengals, the team I unwisely predicted would have the worst record in the league this season. The mantra in Cincinnati is already clear: And the rookies shall lead them. The 3-2 Bengals are maybe the most stunning success story in the NFL through five weeks, and you have to credit a Mike Zimmer-coached defense that ranked first in the league entering Week 5, and the rookie combination of receiver A.J. Green and quarterback Andy Dalton on offense.
Who said rookie receivers can't make an impact in the NFL? Green had five more catches for 90 yards and another touchdown in Jacksonville, and that gives him 24 receptions for 402 yards and three scores on the season. Dalton continues to keep up his end of the bargain, with 179 yards passing, two touchdowns and just one interception against the Jaguars.
And the Bengals next week draw the winless Colts (0-5) at home, giving Cincinnati the ability to enter its Week 7 bye at 4-2, matching 2010's entire win total.
+ ESPN's Senior Writer John Clayton is loving what he sees out of Dalton:
Andy Dalton proved to be the more seasoned of the two rookie quarterbacks in the Bengals' 30-20 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars and Blaine Gabbert. Dalton continues to show poise and the ability to get the ball to wide receiver A.J. Green (five catches for 90 yards) and tight end Jermaine Gresham (5 for 21). Gabbert isn't blessed with such pass-catching stars. He completed 15 passes for 221 yards, but he made more mistakes than Dalton.